As social media grows and matures, it seems pretty clear that there are a few aspects of this integrated discipline that are becoming increasingly important, yet are undeveloped skills in most social media practitioners. One such aspect is search marketing.
Just a few short years ago search engine optimization (SEO) was a highly specialized discipline, and primarily was being executed within standalone SEO firms and some digital agencies. The guys (yeah, mostly guys, though a few gals too) who were search experts often had coding backgrounds, and they really understood the nuts-and-bolts of how the search engines, and websites, worked. They used this info to help static websites get noticed by the engines, and then they extended that knowledge into paid search, also called PPC (pay-per-click) or search engine marketing (SEM). Blogs came along and they figured out the best ways to optimize those too. If you needed to build a website or blog, or run a PPC campaign, you knew who to call.
These days, it’s not quite so simple. Sure, you can (and should) still call in the big guns when you’re building a website from scratch. But lots and lots of agencies: PR, digital and pure-play social, are building client blogs. Do those firms hire an SEO company every time they build a blog? Not if they’re smart. Those that understand the importance of a properly-optimized blog (and the properly-optimized writing that goes into it) have built up enough SEO expertise in-house (or have developers who have) to be able to create and implement a search-friendly blog and then train the writers on at least basic best practices of search-optimized writing.
Search marketing now goes far beyond websites and blogs. It’s part of nearly every aspect of social media, from Twitter to YouTube, Facebook to Flickr. But many social media practitioners or front-line engagers don’t realize how pervasive it is and they’re not always fully equipped to manage search optimization on social platforms. Want proof? Look at how many brands haven’t used every available text space on their Facebook page, or who don’t add brand keywords to their YouTube videos.
So speaking of YouTube, did you know that you can optimize videos on YouTube? Including the right keywords, writing keyword-rich descriptions and uploading video transcripts (yup, you can do that) can all have a big impact on how easily your video is found in YouTube – and in other search engines, such as Google, as well.
Twitter search is getting more important, and more complex, every day. Twitter can be a very powerful tool to get your brand ranked in search engines. It all starts with your profile – even if you can’t get your perfect username, you can make up for it by using your real name/brand name as your Actual Name in Twitter – so if your brand name is “Brand Blue,” using exactly that as your Actual Name will be more effective than being “Erin at Blue.” From that simple start, there are a number of other key Twitter SEO practices to follow; because of Google’s near-instant indexing of its content, quick fixes on Twitter can often make a big difference.
And Facebook … ah, Facebook. With 500 million + users, the search potential within Facebook seems pretty great. However, their search function is not clearly optimizable and it’s improving only slowly. It is true that there are some best practices for Facebook search optimization, including appropriate keyword use (in your info page, photo titles, and status updates); choosing the right name/URL for your Facebook page; and using the About text box (left sidebar) for keyword-rich copy. Another tiny tip is to use a tall image for your brand logo – you’ll command more space in the search results page. Try it and see.
So what can you, the social media practitioner, do to expand your knowledge about search? I recommend starting by adding a few SEO blogs to your blog reader. Some of the posts will be pretty techie, and they won’t all apply to what you do every day, but I can just about guarantee you’ll start to feel smarter about search in just a couple of weeks. Maybe set up some Twitter keyword searches (yet another form of social search!) for “twitter + SEO” or “facebook + SEO.” Breathe it all in – you might find it really appeals to you as a new concept to master.
And the next time your firm hires an SEO specialist to work on a site or a blog, get involved, listen and learn. You can no longer afford to have a “not my department” attitude.
How does your firm or company manage search marketing in relation to social media? As a social media practitioner, do you feel like you know a lot about search or are you just taking baby steps? The comments are yours.
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